Meditating on the Judgements of God:
Judges 1:19 The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots
Before finishing with this part on the taking of Canaan and the judgment on its occupants, we need to observe the end outworking. As we go into the book of judges we soon come across the above verses which tells us that although Israel occupied and controlled most of the land, there were still pockets of resistance. When then read, “The Benjamites, however, failed to dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites.” (v.21)
The following verses show us that this was not unusual: “But Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land. When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely. Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them. Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, who remained among them; but they did subject them to forced labor. Nor did Asher drive out those living in Acco or Sidon or Ahlab or Aczib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob, and because of this the people of Asher lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land. Neither did Naphtali drive out those living in Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath; but the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, and those living in Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath became forced laborers for them. The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain. And the Amorites were determined also to hold out in Mount Heres, Aijalon and Shaalbim, but when the power of the house of Joseph increased, they too were pressed into forced labor.” (v.27-35) I include such an extensive reading because in those few verses it gives us over twenty locations where Israel failed to either destroy or remove the Canaanites. Amazingly Israel did in some cases subject the Canaanites to forced labour and did not obey the Lord’s instructions to either destroy or remove them.
Now Israel has been warned against this: “But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live.” (Num 33:55) Once they were in the land and had come to this place, the Lord challenged them over this: “you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.” (Jud 2:2,3)
This state of affairs says various things about what has happened. First, let us note that the Lord had said (and we saw it many times) that He would drive out the occupants by fear and yet when it came to it, as we noted previously, the occult forces held the occupants in a place of deception where there though they could resist and survive.
Second, it is clear that the Lord’s driving them out goes hand in hand with Israel driving them out. The Lord played on the emotions of the occupants and brought encouragement to Israel, including by the use of miracles, and success relied in Israel’s persistence. The Lord was not going to force the occupants Himself, but would leave it up to Israel. They would be responsible for their own destiny, that is clear.
Third, the absence of Israel’s failure to persevere meant that the enemy could remain. After Joshua’s generation passed away the next generation turned away from the Lord (see Josh 2:10-13): “Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant that I laid down for their forefathers and has not listened to me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their forefathers did.” The LORD had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.” (Josh 2:20-23) The Lord had said that He would only drive out the occupants slowly and so now, in the face of Israel’s unfaithfulness, He says He will leave the remainder as a challenge to Israel.
At the end of this account of Israel taking the Promised Land we find those who ought to have been the instrument of judgment being judged themselves. The tragic story of humanity – even those chosen by God to reveal Him and His goodness – is one of constant failure. Partial obedience is disobedience and we see it again and again in the Bible. God’s judgments (which don’t always involve death) are necessary to deal with these constant and ongoing failures. This should have been a people living in the goodness of the Lord but instead, as we shall see as we move on in judges, it is a story of continual failure. Such is the effect of Sin in the human race.
Thus ends our considerations of the judgment of the taking of the Promised Land. We will also pause before continuing at some future date with this subject of the judgments of God. This is the last of these studies, therefore, fr the moment at least. We hope we may continue them at some time in the future and move on into the historical books of the Old Testament.